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The Lothians during World War One (IV) – A Squadron, continued
This page is the fourth in a series examining East Lothian’s Yeomanry contribution to the British Army during World War One. Earlier pages show the origin and evolution of the Lothians and Border Horse in the years running up to the war.
The recently released war diary of A Squadron, the 1/1st Lothians and Border Horse contained an interesting bonus. The officer entrusted with keeping the diary entered the names, ranks and positions of the entire squadron; this is not at all usual. It does, however, open the tantalising possibility of tracking the war service of the complement of a single unit from start to finish!
The Squadron (equivalent to an infantry company) was organised as a Headquarters and four fighting troops (the equivalent of infantry platoons), each of which was commanded by a junior officer. Six officers, 23 non-commissioned officers and 101 troopers entrained at Dunbar – six short of full strength. The squadron was also 28 horses short of establishment, a deficiency that would have to be made up at their destination camp at Heytesbury, Wiltshire. They did, however, have two motorcyclists on the strength – a precursor of the mechanisation that was to revolutionise warfare during the conflict.
Within the table of organisation, a number of men had specialist duties in addition to their fighting role. Distributed through the Troops were transport drivers, clerks, storesmen, cooks, trumpeters and, essential for a mounted unit, the farrier and his staff of shoeing smiths. Seven men were also designated ‘batmen’, or officer’s servants. Promotions, illness and casualties caused continual changes in the establishment; in the photograph above none of the named lieutenants were with the squadron in that rank a year previously – although two were then serving as senior NCOs.
The Squadron had a brief period in France as their division worked up but, before it was committed to the line, orders were received for a new deployment. They moved south to Marseilles where they embarked for Greece and the Salonika Front. They remained in that Theatre for the remainder of the war and a period of post-war policing.
On the mostly static front, the Squadron became ‘Jacks of all trades’. As a tiny unit, amongst what grew to be a substantial army, they were lucky to be able to maintain their identity through several reorganisations. At times they were used in their proper scouting role but also served dismounted in the line and for various special missions. Behind the line tasks such as providing escorts for supply runs, POW camps and even agricultural work were on the agenda as was dealing with the local communities that remained in the fighting zone: policing, issuing passes, inspections and general ‘hearts and minds’ work in ensuring relationships were kept on friendly terms.
Organisationally, at times they and other small cavalry units were regrouped as a ‘Corps Cavalry Regiment’ under the direct command of the higher formation. At other times Troops could be found operating independently. A considerable amount of time was spent in training for all eventualities. Most of this service was accomplished under harsh conditions: there were few of the rest areas and relief centres that grew up behind the lines in France. Despite some losses on the battlefield, promotion, disease and accidents were the main causes of changes in personnel. It wasn’t uncommon for a trooper to be (honourably) discharged to home when the rigours of the campaign conditions had broken their health. Very few of the original 130 men were still with the Squadron when it returned to the UK at War’s End.
If your ancestor or relative served with the Lothians and Border Horse during World war One, we would be delighted to hear from you. All the photographs on this page came from such a contact, via the family of Lt Tam Dale, Scoughall Farm, East Lothian, for which we extend our thanks.
Keywords: World War One, First World War, WWI, WW1
Our War: The Cranston Family
World War One had a dramatic effect on family life in East Lothian. Husbands and fathers left home to fight leaving their wives and children at home coping not only with the mixed emotions of pride and fear but also with an increased domestic burden.
One such family was the Cranston family of Haddington. Alexander and Elizabeth Cranston had 11 children. Seven of their sons went to fight, four died and two were terribly wounded. Only one returned home unscathed.
Many of the remaining family members suffered physical and mental health issues as a direct result of the conflict and the family broke up following the end of the war. Some members of the family stayed in Scotland, others emigrated and the separate families gradually drifted apart.
The Cranston brothers were ordinary people thrown into an extraordinary situation. They counted a stonemason, a baker, a cartwright, a joiner but also career soldiers in their number. Many of them were already working to support their own families and their widowed mother when they enlisted or were conscripted. The brothers were sent to France and Belgium and saw action across the field of conflict.
Back row standing left to right: William (b 1884); Mary (b 1891); James (b 1887); Agnes (b 1885); Adam (b 1889)Seated left to right: John (b 1882); Father Alexander (b 1854); Angus (b 1901); Mother Elizabeth (b 1855) and son Alexander (b 1879)
Centre: Robert (b 1899)
Front left to right: Andrew (b 1895) and George (b 1892)
Sapper James Buchan Cranston (Royal Engineers) contracted pulmonary tuberculosis during basic training and died not long after. Airman Robert Cranston (Royal Air Force) was conscripted in September 1917, sent to France and flew in bombing missions over Germany. Robert was demobilised in February 1919, returning home to Haddington. Private George Cranston served in four separate units and saw action in France and Belgium. Wounded several times, he suffered shell shock and was badly gassed. The painful and unpleasant after effects of the gas were to remain with him for the rest of his life. Company Sergeant Major John Buchan Cranston was a brave and decorated career soldier, Mentioned in Dispatches and killed in 1916. Private William Cranston (Seaforth Highlanders) enlisted at the declaration of war August 1914. He saw a great deal of action in France but was dreadfully wounded in 1916. He bore scars and wore an eye patch for the rest of his life. Private Adam Lindsay Cranston (Royal Scots Fusiliers) was conscripted in June 1916 and killed in action later that year. His body was found in 1917. Sergeant Alexander Cranston (Royal Engineers) was a brave soldier and leader and was killed in action 1918.
Museum awarded full accreditation!
The John Gray Centre Museum has been awarded the status of full Accreditation!
The John Gray Centre Museum in Haddington has achieved full accreditation status, meeting nationally agreed standards for all museums in the UK. To meet the requirements the museum had to demonstrate that it complies with standards relating to how the museum is governed and managed, how it provides services and facilities for users of and visitors to the museum, and how it cares for and manages the collections.
The Accreditation award emphasises that the local community has a very high-quality facility on its doorstep, which has already been awarded 5 stars by Visit Scotland. Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing, Councillor Tim Day said, ‘This is excellent news which clearly demonstrates that the council services we provide meet the highest and most rigorous standards. Achieving Accreditation is the culmination of lots of hard work ensuring that we provide experiences for our visitors that are both enjoyable and educational whilst caring for a wonderful collection.’
The John Gray Centre Museum is part of the John Gray Centre in Haddington and is co-located with Haddington Library and the Archive and Local History Centre. The museum has lively displays showing some of the fascinating history of this beautiful region of Scotland and hosts regular events and activities for families and groups as well as offering an accessible audio tour.
The museum offers a changing exhibition programme and currently is hosting ‘Treasure, A Christmas Exhibition of Arts and Crafts’. East Lothian Council’s Arts Service have collaborated with the Peter Potter Gallery to showcase work by artists and makers from all over Scotland. This diverse show includes textiles, glass, woodwork, painting and sculpture, as well as beautiful handmade jewellery in precious metals. Not only will visitors discover a wealth of Scottish talent but will also be able to buy unique and lovely gifts for friends and loved ones too – ideal for the festive season! The exhibition is also showing at the Peter Potter Gallery, Haddington and is on at both venues from 13 December until 17 January.
The John Gray Centre Museum is open to the public Friday to Tuesday until April when it will be open 7 days a week.
Major Walter Waring (1876 – 1930)
Walter Waring began his military career with the 1st Life Guards and saw service during the South African Boer War. He followed his father into Parliament, serving as a Liberal MP for the constituencies of Banffshire, Blaydon and then Berwick and Haddington before switching parties to sit as a Conservative on London County Council. He maintained his military links by obtaining a commission in the Yeomanry and by 1914 he was major in command of A Squadron, the Lothians and Border Horse. A Squadron drew its men from East Lothian and Berwickshire.
Like many other MPs, Waring left Parliament to serve with his regiment. He went overseas with the reorganised A Squadron to France and then on through the Mediterranean as part of the British Salonika Force. The detached unit acted as divisional cavalry for the newly raised 26th Division but the nature of the war as it evolved in the Balkans Theatre meant that divisional cavalry were operationally redundant for much of the time. The solution was to reorganise the mounted components from several divisions as Mounted Brigades and then later as Corps Cavalry Regiments. Waring guided his Squadron through these changes, being sometimes in command of the composite regiment created from several squadrons, before being posted to a Headquarters Intelligence position, in which he finished the war.
While Waring was on active service, his wife converted their home into Lennell Auxiliary Hospital for Officers, of which she became administrator.
Post-war Waring resumed his political career, but found himself out of step with his former party. He died in 1930.
Remembering World War One
On Sunday the temporary exhibition at the John Gray Centre finished. It had looked at the impact of the First World War on those living in East Lothian – both those who went to war, and those left behind. Over the last couple of months I have been involved in a number of WWI-related activities at the Centre, from poppy-making workshops to military ancestor research, but the one activity I am most proud to have been a part of happened on Tuesday, 11 November.
On that day, Armistice Day, the John Gray Centre held a little Remembrance service. It took place in the Star Room on the ground floor, and we were delighted that 8 pupils from King’s Meadow Primary School were able to attend. Actually, they did more than just attend. They made the service. Other members of the audience included the over-60s gentlemen who belong to the Sporting Memory Group, and it was lovely to see different generations coming together for the act of Remembrance.
As well as working at the John Gray Centre, I also work as a tour guide for Mercat Tours, and this year have been training to take school children to Belgium and France, to teach them about the First World War on site. It has made the war so much more vivid to me – I have seen trenches from that period, I have walked across No Man’s Land in the Somme, I have stood in front of the grave of the oldest man to be killed on the Western Front (67) and in front of one of the youngest (15). I have seen the sheer scale of names of the missing on the Thiepval memorial and the row upon row of graves at Tynecot, the largest British military cemetery in the world. And I tried to bring some of that to the service itself, to illustrate to those present why this year, the centenary of the start of WWI, is such an important year, and why the 11th November, at 11am, is remembered every year.
But what really brought the service alive was the interaction from those present. The 8 pupils from King’s Meadow took it in turns to stand up and read out poems, telegrams and stories from both the First and the Second World War, including the great John McCrae poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. They did so with great confidence.
Aberlady Primary School display of WWI artwork
With one eye on the clock, not wanting to go beyond 11am, but also not wanting to talk about my own experiences much more, I asked if anyone else in the audience would like to stand up and say anything. And Jim stood up, came to the front, and spoke directly to the children. For younger generations today, it can be difficult to understand why Remembrance Day is so important to mark. If they have no direct experience of war, through members of the family being in the armed services, it can seem like something to do with history, not relevant for them. Well, Jim had been a Bevan Boy during the Second World War, and he stood there and told some of his experiences to the pupils, of the friends he had lost, of what he had seen, and why this day is so important to him. His friend Jake also spoke, telling of two of his friends who had been prisoners of war. And it was that sharing of experiences, and the reading from the pupils, the connection between these different generations, that I was so proud to be a part of.
At 11am, as the last post faded, we stood and held our silence. And my thoughts were with those in the room with me – the hope that those present represented. Those who had seen the horrors of war, and those who would hopefully only ever learn about it from books and talking to older generations. And as the reveille sounded out, breaking the silence, there was a sense of looking forward. That it was good to remember, but that it was OK to carry on with our lives.
The sharing of memories and thoughts between generations is so important to keep history alive. I was honoured to be part of a little bit of that this year.
By Ruth Boreham, historian
Witches and Warlocks
Who says Halloween in just for children. Tomorrow evening David Robertson will give a talk in the Star Room on East Lothian witchcraft at 7pm.
David’s book, Wise Wives and Warlocks, a rogues’ gallery of East Lothian witchcraft, tells us tales of Agnes Sampson, Isobel Young, Janet Bruce, Marion Lille and many others who were accused of dealing with Satan and witchcraft. David will be discussing his book and enlightening us about local witches and warlocks.
This is a free event. Just turn up.
Our War: objects on display
Our War: Our Nurses objects
Pics and text to come
Our War: Our Nurses
Panel text to come
Our War: The Soldiers
Panel text to come
Panel text to come